The Mermen's Road Report, Part 6

Artwork by Team Drunk.

On Jan. 15, with haphazard grace, The Mermen wandered off

on the beginning of a nine week slog across America. Guitarist Jim Thomas,

drummer Martyn Jones and bassist Allen Whitman, accompanied by soundman Roz

Jones (no relation to Martyn), guitar tech Mark Dickson and their roadie, known

only as Leslie, arranged themselves inside the white Ford Super Clubwagon 350

window van and, pulling the matching white trailer with the gear, drove all

night to San Diego. We've previously published Whitman's first five reports.

Today we present "Part 6."

On the road, Sun., Feb. 3, 4 AM. We are

crashing through a heavy squall, southbound Route 95, below Cape Canaveral.

Leslie is at the helm of the Pequod. Lightning flashes, high winds and heavy,

heavy rains. Semis blow by, doing over 80, throwing out huge walls of water. We

are cast about on the tossed sea lanes. Changing drivers at a rest stop I stand

under the clouds with arms out, letting the soft, warm water cover

me.

Miami, FL, Sun., Feb. 3. Churchill's Hideaway. Eating homemade

shepherd's pie in the quiet house behind this local Little Haiti pub, run by

expatriates of the British Isles. Cockney and London accents, great beer and

enthusiastic people asking questions like: "Can I get you anything?" A friendly

oasis in the midst of a sub-tropical hell: Miami is a bleak city full of shut

faces and empty concrete hotels. Mile after mile of both line the ocean

beaches. Looking for a place to sleep this morning after our gale-driven trek

we were turned away for herds of poorly dressed conventioneers. We assumed it

was because we weren't wearing pastels. Weather stormy and humid while the rest

of the country is completely snowed/iced under. E-mail from Jenny M. in Dallas

describing snow and slush. More from Gary C. in Atlanta mentioning frozen roads

- 8 in. of snow in Philadelphia and 10 in New York. We make plans to hit a

Costco for tire chains.

The show is packed. Advance work by the Beast &

Baker radio show has created a buzz. Category 5, the local surf band, opens

with 50 minutes of tight, genre classics including: "Squad Car." During the set

change the tension mounts as a three-alarm fire guts a two-story house right

across the street. Smoke fills the club stinging our eyes and lungs. At the

close of a two hour set the Beast tells me that he's completely relaxed. "It

was everything I thought it would be, and more." The English security refuse to

let us go without leaving Leslie. We shake our heads. She sold tons of T-shirts

and CD's tonight. She stays with us.

Mon., Feb. 4. Up the coast to Stuart,

FL, to spend two nights with Jim's mom, Agnes, and her husband, Arthur.

Laundry, food, sleep, a baby-grand Baldwin in the living room, and, most

importantly, NO driving. Over dinner at a Cuban place, we get some dirt out of

Agnes. Jim reminded her of being chased down the street in New Jersey by Agnes,

in a Pontiac LeMans, for bringing a girl to the house when Mom wasn't home. We

remember when Agnes came to the Nightbreak in the Haight in San Francisco to

see The Mermen. She sat right in front and when she requested a song Jim

refused to play it. Now that's a real man. Back home we check out the full moon

over the links. The golf course abuts the groomed backyard in this carefully

planned resort. But the cold front has dropped the temperature to 39 degrees

Fahrenheit. My breath steams in frigid air at the retirement

community.

Feb. 5th - Off at Jim's Mom's house. Up early for the

smorgasbord in the kitchen. From bananas to cereal to coffee cake to eggs,

bacon and sausage, to muffins and juice, etc.... I almost weep from the

civility of it and wonder if I'll ever live anywhere.

Jim makes dinner at

Mom's. Steak, roasted garlic, baked potato, sautéed onions, corn on the cob,

and a beautiful (she looked like Molly Ringwald - cuter) piano player to

perform for us on the baby-grand. Liszt, Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmananoff and,

my favorite, Debussy. Once again the civility of the experience almost

overwhelms me. Or maybe the massage I had earlier in the day has taken a bottle

brush to the clogged neck of my chakra chain. We arrange ourselves around the

living room and sit quietly in soft light listening to Kelly play piano. I am

leafing through a book of Andrew Wyeth's paintings.

Gainesville, FL, Feb.

6. The Covered Dish. First thing this morning a FedEx driver hands over six

more pounds of Peet's coffee, flown in from San Francisco. We head north after

a long sigh and a short good-bye. Four hours to Gainesville gets us in after

dark. Pull up, reconnoiter, load in, sound check, eat, hang out, play, stand

around for a minute, pack up, load out, idiot check, drive away. Met some good

people in a pretty non-descript club. About 40 people in a room for 200. We

played well, and that's what matters. Drive all night to Athens, GA. The crew

does all the driving. I lay in the back and doze or read pop fiction

paperbacks.

The end of the Florida chapter. Time to head north and East,

into the cold and wet.

To be

continued...